MTSU’s Department of Social Work is working to raise awareness of the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the ninth leading cause of death in Tennessee.
The 2019 Hike for Hope is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, in the Student Union Courtyard in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Participants will walk once around the campus, and no fee is required.
To register, go to www.afsp.org/mtsuhike.
October is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and AFSP’s goal is to lower the national suicide rate 20 percent by the year 2025.
Kat Cloud, AFSP’s Tennessee area director, said suicide is the second leading cause of death in Tennessee among people ages 15 to 24.
“What we need to be doing is treating our mental health just like our physical health,” said Cloud. “It’s not weak to go see somebody if you’re struggling. It’s not weak to reach out to a friend or a trusted community member or person in your life if you think you might be in crisis.”
Sarah Pope, a senior psychology major from La Vergne, Tennessee, is working on logistical arrangements, paperwork and other details for MTSU’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month activities. She has a special reason for her devotion to the cause: Pope attempted suicide in December 2016.
“I felt that I really needed something as an outlet that was helping people with something that I had just been through,” Pope said. “This was a really good way for me to kind of direct my focus in a (healthier) way, to see my attempt as something that I can move on from and not something that can hold me back.”
Organizers say that future social workers now learning at MTSU could encounter and be asked to help people with suicidal thoughts during the students’ internships, volunteer work and professional careers.
Dr. Justin Bucchio, an assistant professor of social work and coordinator of MTSU’s social work master’s degree program, said his department has been trying to increase practice methods for students to help them learn more about clients with suicidal thoughts.
“We’ve been trying to implement more assessment tools into our classrooms that target specific questions that are associated with suicidal screening,” Bucchio said.
Cloud said funds raised during the MTSU Hike for Hope event will help pay for survivor support, educational and prevention programming, advocacy in legislative bodies and research. AFSP is the largest private funder of suicide research in the country.
Area businesses also are supporting AFSP’s fundraising efforts:
• Gold’s Gym, 1691 Memorial Blvd., will donate 100 percent of the fees from its 10 a.m. yoga class Saturday, Oct. 5, to suicide prevention.
• Chipotle Restaurant, 479 N. Thompson Lane, will donate up to 33 percent of its sales from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, to AFSP. The MTSU chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society is promoting this event.
• Burger Republic, 1500 Medical Center Parkway, will donate 15 percent of its sales from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21.
Diners at both restaurants who want their money to go to suicide prevention must tell cashiers they’re supporting the cause.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available free 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide support, information and local resources. The number is 800-273-8255, or 800-273-TALK.
For more information about the 2019 Hike for Hope, contact Bucchio at 615-898-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Cloud at 615-393-4742 or email@example.com.
–Gina Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)